Written by Stacey Axelrod, NYC Pet Photographer
Looking back at #MyFirstStrut in 2016 is such an interesting trip down Memory Lane. I’m sharing these photos today to raise $25 for my team Foster Dogs, Inc. (thanks to Ruggable's generous support), but looking at these old pictures made me want to write a lot more about how much has changed since then.
I didn't know it at the time, but October 2016 was the beginning of a huge shift in my life that ultimately led to the start of NYC Pet Photographer as my name and my business. I’ll share more below, but first I’d like to remind you to donate to our team or join us at the walk on October 5th! Get all the info here. Your donation is tax-deductible and Foster Dogs keeps 100% of the money raised after transaction fees. Last year our team raised over $48,000 and this year we want to raise another $25,000. You can help us get there!
When I walked with the Foster Dogs team at Strut Your Mutt in 2016, I was still pretty new to the organization and I had no idea that many of these volunteers would become some of my closest friends and colleagues. I had been working as the Staff Photographer for the ASPCA since 2013, but I decided to start volunteering as a photographer for Foster Dogs in late 2015 because I wanted to get more involved in the local rescue scene. It was right around the time of Strut Your Mutt 2016 that I started searching for a new job and volunteering was my way of making sure I could remain active in animal rescue even if I didn’t end up working in the field full time. Little did I know, I would continue working in animal rescue for another 18 months and Strut Your Mutt would be a big part of that, but I’ll get to that part soon….
On October 1st, 2016—about a week after returning from my honeymoon—I arrived at Pier 26 and I really had no idea what to expect. What I found was a really enthusiastic team of fosters, volunteers, and adopters rallying behind Foster Dogs founder Sarah (aka The Dog Matchmaker), who was then 9 months pregnant with Liam. It’s amazing to look back on how much the organization has grown since Liam was born. And just last week, Sarah and her family welcomed baby Eva to the world and to the Foster Dogs team!
That day I met lots of people who would later become important people in my life. There’s Paula from Prodigy Puppy who became Escher’s dog walker and first real friend. She’s still my good friend and I even spent a summer working for her (pro tip: professional dog walking is REALLY hard). There’s Kellie from Gonzo Dog who recently became Escher’s trainer after I saw her work with some difficult foster dogs and friends’ dogs. There’s Cleo, a gorgeous dog who wore an “Adopt Me” bandana while strutting with our team and then got adopted by her foster and fellow FDI volunteer Elsie. And don’t forget Miriam, Samantha (of Penny Pig), and Megan, all of whom have become my friends, colleagues on the Foster Dogs Steering Committee, and inspirations for my Why We Foster project.
There was also a group of employees from BARK on our team and I was on a secret mission to impress them by getting really good photos of their dogs. Bark was hiring a photographer at the time and I wanted to know everything about working there. I didn’t get the job, but I did become friends with that Bark crew and I got great photos of Strut Your Mutt that would help me get a different job 5 months later.
All of this contributed to me changing my name on Instagram to @nycpetphotographer on October 28th, 2016. I still can’t believe that name was available. I wasn’t allowed to share most of the work I did for the ASPCA during that time, so instead I grew a following on my new account through volunteer photo shoots and freelance work.
Then in early 2017, I came across a job for Best Friends Animal Society and I sent in my portfolio with some of these photos from Strut Your Mutt. Fast forward to October 2017 and I was photographing Strut Your Mutt again, but this time as the Best Friends Animal Society - New York City Staff Photographer leading a team of volunteer photographers spread throughout the event. I made sure to find the Foster Dogs team that year and snapped a team photo to go with the one from 2016. I photographed the team at Strut again In 2018, but this time the team was huge and I was there volunteering as NYC Pet Photographer, Inc.
Looking back on these photos made me realize that #MyFirstStrut represents a turning point in my life and my career. So much has changed in the last three years, but my dedication to Foster Dogs is still going strong. I’m so proud to support this team as a volunteer and as a business. I hope you will join me and this wonderful team for Strut Your Mutt 2019!